Bus Services after the Spending Review - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from Harrogate District Community Transport Scheme Limited (Little Red Bus) (BUS 115)


Harrogate District Community Transport Scheme Limited, (Little Red Bus), established in 1986 is a social enterprise. It is an Industrial and Provident Society registered with and regulated by the FSA.

1.  We have no political affiliations and do not support any particular vested interests.

2.  Little Red Bus primary aim is to improve quality of life through the provision of transport services for the benefit of the community by:

—  Working to develop sustainable communities,

—  Promoting social inclusion,

—  Providing or ensuring connectivity to work, leisure, health and social care, and

—  Enhancing environmental performance.

The organisation has continued to progress a planned programme of development, facilitated by the award of the Futurebuilders funding package that was made available in May 2006.

Futurebuilders Programme involves working in partnership with other community transport partners to increase the capacity of the organisations in order to enable the sustainable expansion of community transport. The ultimate objectives of this growth are to:

—  Achieve improved community cohesion by connecting people across the county.

—  Enable statutory agencies to improve access to services and, thereby, achieve best value.

—  Increase the numbers of people attending health care, thereby enabling a better quality of life.

—  Enable older people to live independent lives.

—  Provide access to social and recreational facilities for young people in order to reduce the incidence of anti-social behaviour.

—  Increase the numbers of people accessing educational facilities; eg school children utilizing Extended School Hours provision.

—  Enable the long term unemployed to access work and training opportunities.

—  Enable low income families to undertake day to day activities to the advantage of their health; eg accessing supermarkets and sports and leisure facilities.

The organisation has consistently grown and in 2009-10 achieved a turnover of £1.7 million. It has used investments from Futurebuilders England, Local authorities, various government initiatives including Rural Bus Challenge, Rural Transport Partnerships and earned income to develop an independent integrated transport centre using the latest technology and a range different size vehicles and community car schemes to operate, a range of transport services flexibly and in response to local need. The aim is make efficiencies by breaking down barriers between the silos of transport funding agencies that are responsible for different services for the same communities at different but often the same time. Also to provide a network that supports commercial operators where they exist and to fill the gaps where they do not.


LRB has been severely affected by the cuts to services and budget allocation to transport services in North Yorkshire.

For several years we have been developing packages of work particularly in rural areas that included home to school transport, local bus service demand responsive services and group trips which enabled the passenger subsidy maximum of £7.50 to be reduced to £4.31 in very rural and isolated communities This subsidy was also reducing as spare capacity was available and local communities were gaining confidence and relying more on public/community transport.

This has now been destroyed by NYCC Integrated Passenger Transport Unit without any consultation and in fact the local community partnership which has been growing since 2005 has been deliberately undermined in order to obtain immediate budget cuts and severe cuts in local transport services and community confidence.

Other similar services around North Yorkshire have been weakened or completely cut in order to make instant budget cuts.

In many cases bus services and other local authority or health services have been withdrawn and people told to contact "Little Red Bus". Little Red Bus has not been consulted or offered any support to provide these extra services. In one instance a large GP consortia moved to a joint headquarters and their brochure informed people to use Little Red Bus services if they could not access the surgery. Millions of pounds were spent on this project but at no time were we consulted.


The extension of concessionary fares to community transport services would support the most vulnerable in areas where there is no public transport or access is difficult. This could be supported by introducing a nominal fare with a concessionary fare pass which seems to be acceptable to the majority of people.


Whilst the need for savings and efficiencies is accepted the lack of consultation or understanding of community links is of more concern.

An understanding of the need or attempt to use the knowledge understanding and skills of operators, users and relevant local authority departments would significantly improve the level of service provided.

The lack of this leads to inflexibility extra cost mistrust between stakeholders and a single solution for a range of different problems.

Transparency and accountability with a jointly accepted strategic approach with agreed priorities seems a fairly obvious solution but the lack of this has led to the catastrophic cuts affecting the lives of people who cannot now get to work or access services. In the case of an individual wishing to get to hospital, work or for shopping the difference can be £24.00 for a taxi or £2.50 in a little red bus which may now not be available.

The recent award to NYCC of £415,000 for community transport could enable some of the effects of the cuts to be limited as the inability to plan services is a major factor prohibiting the sustainable development of community transport providers in North Yorkshire.

Unfortunately these funds are not ring fenced and the current system of funding operated by IPTU appears to be random and not subject to consultation. Various reviews, strategies and plans for Community Transport In North Yorkshire have been developed by NYCC Integrated Passenger Transport Unit (IPTU) since 2004 but there is very little evidence of any change or consideration of the consultation process. Referral to these documents in order to attempt changes is usually referred to as "history" and "not relevant now". Inevitably there is then another expensive review which supports procrastination, and the resumption of status quo.

As a result community transport providers and other stakeholders find it difficult to plan their operations and prepare meaningful budgets. Some CT operators try to support communities from contracted local authority services which are generally commercially competitative and allocated on an individual and non strategic basis. This makes it very difficult to support expensive non commercial community services without subsidy.

The lack of a county wide strategic approach by NYCC Integrated Passenger Transport Unit (IPTU) and outcomes based on agreed performance indicators mean that the IPTU allocate funding on an "as and when" basis to individual organisations on an "ad hoc" basis.

The lack of transparency or agreed system of accountability or monitoring does not encourage partnership between community transport operators but can lead to an environment of suspicion. This strategy could be interpreted as a way of preventing strong partnerships from developing which could be seen as a threat to local authority power and jobs which is the opposite to the Localism agenda and counter productive to the aims of avoiding duplication, shared resources and achieving efficiencies.

It is not suggested that NYCC are unique in this approach and that the IPTU based on the lack of guidance, national policies, historical status and achievements of the community transport sector are entirely to blame for the situation.

Community Transport as a creditable player is a recent phenomena and therefore may have been difficult to accept as part of budget negotiating... Community transport has been seen as a cheap option based on volunteers and in some places this opinion still prevails. The development of some community transport providers into the contract culture has enabled the sector to raise its profile and be included in the transport network as a key connector in the transport network.

The dilemmas and issues need to be discussed and addressed. The Local Transport Bill went some way towards assisting this and the impact is slowly becoming apparent.

Local authorities must decide if they want community transport and understand what it can offer, how much, at what level and at what cost. Meaningful comparisons between in house, community commercial and a strategic partnership of all can be debated and consulted on and the outcomes shared. Then it may be easier for these services to be considered as a part of the transport solutions and budgets and will enable transport officers to develop the consultation and planning process required.


Community transport is now recognised as being part of the solution but it must be allowed to join up become a part of the transport network. It should be included in concessionary fare scheme but also operate under quality standards.

CT can prove to be a costly solution in terms of human resources due to administration of scheduling and control functions. This can be effectively resolved by the use of the hub concept as proposed in the Futurebuilders Little red Bus Network Model and the Dales Integrated Alliance Project. Core scheduling services can be operated using a web based system with local connections that will also provide administrative, technical, financial, monitoring and recording services. 24 hour service can be provided as all local providers can be "off service" and the Hub will respond. Hub will contract larger and cross sector contracts to be delivered locally and local providers will also remain independent and work with their local communities to provide demand responsive and supplementary local solutions.

Local organisations working with local communities can provide more services and at reduced cost the Dales and Bowland Community Interest Company have reduced subsidies by over half and increased patronage by over 50% in only two years and by providing weekend services improved the local rural economy by increasing tourist numbers whilst at the same time reducing the carbon footprint in the Yorkshire Dales.

Solutions are readily available if consultation is used effectively and users, operators and other stakeholders are accepted as real partners.

April 2011

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